Combating Reverse Culture Shock

Studying abroad was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I will forever cherish the memories I made in Panama. One of the hardest things for me was coming back to the states and re-adjusting back into life that is so different than the life I was living in Bocas del Toro. As soon as I landed back in the United States, it still did not feel like I was actually leaving the place I called home for three months. After a few days, it finally started to set in and I realized that I was going to have to get back into my real life.

Since I had such an amazing time in Panama, I found myself wanting to talk about my experiences all the time. This became something that I quickly realized, and had to make sure that I was not constantly talking about going abroad, but that I was also listening to my family and friends’ stories while I was gone. I found that people are often interested in your stories but they do not need to hear every detail of every day constantly. To help remind myself of my semester abroad I made a photo collage of some of my favorite memories and hung it in my room so that way I could remember my favorite moments without having to talk about them all the time. 

I think my reverse culture shock would have been much worse if I had not been busy as soon as I came back to the United States. I had a few days to decompress, but then I started working and volunteering to help take my mind off of thinking about Panama. Keeping busy really helped me find my rhythm and reinstate some of my passions that I was not able to do while abroad. Doing things that I enjoyed as well as fun things that were not available to me while I was abroad reminded me of why I was glad to be back in California. 

Studying abroad was quite possibly the best decision I have ever made, and it really helped form my opinions and ideas and allow me to see the world in a more global light. Readjusting to life back in California has been difficult, but it is possible as long as you keep in mind that studying abroad and your home life are most likely very different, so adjusting from one to the other will be hard. Focusing on things that you are passionate about, staying busy, and making little mementos of the time abroad helped me significantly when trying to readjust back into my home life. Even with the possibility of experiencing culture shock, I would strongly recommend anyone considering travelling abroad to do it, as it will likely be life changing.

By: Natalie Mansergh

Studying Abroad on a Budget

In order to achieve my goal of studying abroad, I had to find an option that accommodated my need for a shorter and financially attainable program: International Business Seminar was able to meet both of these needs. These seminars are brief experiences abroad in which you, as a student, get both the opportunity to tour companies and travel internationally for a reasonable cost. The costs include all travel expenses, including flights if planned by IBS, and the only additional costs are lunches, dinners, souvenirs, and activities outside of the schedule. If properly budgeted and managed, this experience is worth the investment. Every day was filled to maximum capacity with activity. No minute was spared sitting around in the hotel. If the group was not on a company visit, we all went out into the city to find local food, see local sights, and interact with the local vendors.

Budget Beginnings 

Before committing to a program, I attended several information sessions did some online research, and spoke with coordinators from IBS. I wanted to accumulate as much information about the seminar and the costs involved before making a final decision. Once I was certain that I wanted to attend the Winter Southeast Asia program, I set out to discover ways in which I can raise personal funds to cover the costs. To fully prepare myself financially, I had started to look into attending an International Business Seminar over a year in advanced. This was because I already knew looking into study abroad it was not inexpensive.

The process of accumulating funds started in January of 2019, giving me nearly a year to accumulate funds before the final payment deadline for the Winter programs (November 15th). With a timeline for financial planning established, I could strategically plan how to pay off my trip. I set regular goals for myself to track the progress I was making every month to ensure I stayed on track. IBS also sends a confirmation email with an updated invoice for the travel costs, which became my new benchmark for fund raising. 

Is 100 Pennies Less Valuable than a Dollar? 

I primarily relied on my monthly income to pay for my trip. You can make larger sums of money via jobs, such as I did, and make extra through work such as tutoring, babysitting, and more, but on the other side, a great deal of accumulating money is also penny pinching. There is a common saying, “Money saved is money earned.” This is where a majority of my funding came from. My monthly payments consisted of money saved from the following: not eating out and attending on-campus events or free events rather than going to events I had to pay for. 

With this penny pinching mindset, I made the conscious decision to shift my habits to reflect a more frugal attitude with spending throughout the year. Rather than spending money on items I do not immediately need (items like a new phone case or that new pair of Nike Air Force Ones), I choose to invest the money into a savings account. These small adjustments both reduced spending, but also did not impact my overall satisfaction with my daily life. Small adjustments seem insignificant at first, but they accumulate into larger financial savings: if you collect enough pennies it eventually becomes a dollar.

Scrapping Up Scholarships 

Additionally, through avidly applying, I accumulated funds through scholarships. On average, I submitted about 2-3 scholarships each month in hopes of receiving at least one.  The third, and smallest, source of funding came from crowdfunding. For my birthday, I established a GoFundMe. Instead of allocating money towards gift cards that may sit unused for months or buying me trinkets of some kind for my birthday, I reached out to family and friends and told them I’d rather the money go towards my seminars’ expenses. 

Both of these means of funding are sporadic and require a lot of initiative and constant sharing. I lacked dedication in regards to the opportunity of crowdfunding, which I could have capitalized on to support a larger amount of payments. Additionally, scholarships and crowdfunding are not guaranteed. You can submit the scholarships and spread the word you are funding for the program, but others have to be willing to contribute. However, it only takes one or two scholarships to make a difference financially and to make studying abroad a possibility. 

What Happens to My Money??

If finances are a concern, but you still want to study abroad this is a great alternative because the programs are during the Summer and Winter terms. For most undergraduate programs, they typically occur during breaks, and for some graduate programs, they take place immediately after or before the start of the new term, depending on the program and university. Since the seminars do not require a full semester’s commitment, you do not have to take an extraordinary amount of time off from your job to attend the program either, allowing you to save more before the financial pay-off deadline. 

Being that I prepared well in advance for this program, I allocated enough time for myself to properly save up funds for the program; however, in the event that I was unable to afford the program, IBS has the policy that you can receive a refund until the second week of October, for the Winter programs. This was a “pre-deadline” so to speak for me. This date gave me more confidence in my ability to pay for this program because I knew that I could back out of the program before that date if I felt unsure about it. Then, with the funds I had already saved, I could wait a little longer and save enough to attend a different program that I liked at a later date!

Getting Paid Back With Educational Interest 

A major appeal factor of this studying abroad program was the lack of a classroom. At no point on this trip did I sit in a classroom to listen to a lecture, yet I still received educational value. I earned college credit simply by visiting six companies and spending anywhere from 2-5 hours with their representatives discussing their marketing tactics, their branding, the company structure, the state of the economy, and anything else that we, the students, wanted to ask about. This type of open-forum discussion with high level Directors and CEO’s would be challenging, if not impossible, to accomplish without the scheduling of tours and visits through organizations such as IBS.I finally had the opportunity to utilize the business theories and knowledge I learned in my lectures halls at California Lutheran in a real business setting.

Time to Explore the Cities! 

The only other obligation you have is to arrive at the designated time for scheduled tours of the city and local sites. IBS programs have built in city adventures, such as meeting local Vietnamese students while learning how to properly eat and prepare the dishes served by the street markets and food vendors. I floated in the rivers of Thailand to see the Damnoen Floating Market and in Vietnam to a remote location where I saw how local candy, Kẹo dừa, or coconut candy, was made from start to finish. I biked around the Ancient City in Thailand and walked around a 360⁰ view of the entire city of Ho Chi Minh from the 50th floor of the Saigon Sky deck. 

Combined, the balance of business and cultural discovery provided me with a well-rounded and unforgettable experience. I came to South East Asia with only research knowledge and came back to America with the experience of engaging with the business hub and the local people of Thailand and Vietnam. Prior to this seminar, traveling to Asia was unobtainable for me. It was too much of a cultural gap for me to try and navigate these countries by my own means and planning. IBS made something that was challenging for me not only easy, but enjoyable. I found myself loving the countries I never even imagined visiting.

By: Karlee Cuddy

Going Abroad as a Student-Athlete

I got past the common myths about study abroad (that it’s too expensive, dangerous, or wouldn’t fit in my schedule) through insight from study abroad returnees, but for me the biggest barrier was being a student-athlete. I was afraid of letting down my coach and my team, missing a precious season, and being out of shape when I got back. Despite all my concerns, I ended up taking the leap, and studying abroad was well worth missing a season of Track & Field! I interviewed two other California Lutheran University student-athletes and below is our experience and advice about how to make study abroad work as an athlete.

Introductions

Will Taylor has played football at Cal Lutheran for four years. He studied abroad his sophomore year at The Hague University in the Netherlands Spring of 2018. The program was arranged by our school, so all of his scholarships traveled with him.

Cortez Espinoza, also a senior, plays baseball. He studied abroad in Lismore, Australia in Fall 2019 at Southern Cross University, a partner-affiliate school with CLU.

Olivia Becker, the author of this blog, is a junior on CLU’s Cross Country and Track & Field teams. She studied abroad in Granada, Spain through AIFS during Spring 2019, her sophomore year.

Coach and Teammate Reactions

Cortez: My coach was supportive of me travelling to Australia because it was during the fall, which is our offseason. My teammates were excited to hear about my journey abroad. They wanted to hear about my experience and things that I learned while abroad.

Will: My coaches and teammates were supportive. They were excited for me when I told them I was going and welcomed me back after.

Olivia: My coach is a CLU alumnus, and when I told him I wanted to study abroad he encouraged me because one of his few regrets from college is that he didn’t study abroad. My teammates stayed in touch while I was abroad by FaceTiming me during some track meets and I was surprised how much extra attention they gave me when I got back

Staying in Shape While Abroad

Olivia: My coach worked with me to email a weekly training plan when I was abroad, and Granada had plenty of gyms to choose from. The AIFS Resident Director got me a discount to his gym, which I joined for the second half of my semester abroad so I could do strength training before the summer. Running in the city was trickier than at home, but I found a couple trails and a park that was exactly 1 kilometer around, perfect for repeat workouts!

Cortez: While in Australia, I played with a local club baseball team on weekends. I was able to play against college and adult players as a fun, competitive opportunity.

Will: I went to the gym at my university in The Hague almost every day when I wasn’t traveling. I knew what lifts to do and how to do them because I was there the previous offseason, so I kept up with the workouts. Every Tuesday and Thursday there was an open gym for basketball, so I played pickup games with other students. It was fun playing with guys from around the world.

Workout Buddies

Cortez: Our campus was known for its athletic facilities. Many athletes and students came to our gym to work out, which allowed me to meet athletes to lift weights and stay fit. We would challenge each other in basketball, beach volleyball, and soccer games each week to stay in shape and enjoy the outdoors.

Olivia: The AIFS team actually planned sports every couple weeks, including soccer, beach volleyball, basketball, and flag football. There was also an option to play on an international student intramural team for the entire semester and the winning team got a trophy at the end. There were a few student-athletes in my program and more people who just liked to run, so it was easy to find a workout buddy when I wanted one.

Will: I had some friends who would come to the gym with me, but I typically went alone. While it’s great to have a workout partner, I didn’t want to get tied to a gym buddy. At my program there weren’t any other student athletes because there were very few American students, and other countries don’t have college sports like in the U.S….I think it’s important to find your own motivation and be comfortable working out alone.

Satisfying your Athlete Appetite

Will: I lived in an apartment with a kitchen, so I cooked my own meals. There was a small grocery store across the street that I sometimes went to, but for my weekly grocery shopping I rode my bike to a bigger store. It was pretty cheap to buy groceries. I tried to keep a healthy diet. I ate plenty of meat, especially fish, which was far cheaper than it is here. I tried to eat local specialties often, which often weren’t the most healthy.

Cortez: I was fortunate to have a kitchen in my dorm. So I would go to the grocery store each week to prepare meals that would sustain me for the week. I also took a nutrition course for my Exercise Science major which allowed me to learn the benefits of food, to sustain a healthy lifestyle as an athlete.

Olivia: I lived with a host family that provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with small snacks I could bring to class. Many of my friends’ host families were older couples who had lived during World War II and knew what it was like to be hungry, so now they made so much food that my friends had to learn to politely say they were full. My host family was younger and more concerned with their weight, but I definitely wasn’t starving. It did take me awhile to get used to Spain’s small breakfasts and late lunches (around 2-3 pm), so often I would stop at a cafe on the way to school and buy a tostada.

Readjusting to Sports in the U.S.

Olivia: It’s all about timing. If you’re a dual-sport athlete like me, you could look into summer programs, which last anywhere from 2-12 weeks. I normally train in the summer for Cross Country, so I decided I would rather miss a season of Track, then train all summer and come back strong for Cross Country.

Will: It was an easy adjustment for me. I got right back into the swing of things. Despite missing the previous offseason, I still knew the playbook and was in shape and ready for camp.

Cortez: I was able to join the team during January for our spring training, which is the main starting point for the baseball season.

Final Words of Advice

Cortez: I would advise every student-athlete to study abroad because you only get one opportunity to go to another country to learn, have fun, and experience the world outside of your university. There are opportunities for athletes to play sports while abroad, so it is important to reach out to the campus and community of desire to make playing sports abroad a reality.

Will: Pick a time to study abroad that affects your sport as little as possible. If you can avoid missing your season, do so. I would also advise going as early as possible. I went my sophomore year because I didn’t want to miss the offseason before my senior year. Work with your coaches to ensure that you’re keeping up with offseason training and don’t fall behind. Continue to develop your game in whatever way you can while you’re abroad.

Olivia: Studying abroad as a student-athlete was much easier than I expected it would be. My coach was supportive, my team enjoyed hearing my stories, I ran my fastest times in Cross Country during my first semester back, then became team captain the following semester! Study abroad may actually help your athletics if you embrace it as a nice mental break from the intensity of being an athlete. Whatever you’re scared of, stop hesitating and take the leap. It’s worth it.

By: Olivia Becker

My First International Experience: The Build-Up to My First International Experience

Growing up, I never traveled outside of the United States, so I knew that when I started college studying abroad was definitely an experience that I wanted to have; however, being that I am graduating early, a full semester was not an option for me. This led to a hunt for another alternative. After countless hours of research and speaking with the Center for Global Engagement at California Lutheran University, I came across the opportunity to do a brief 2 to 4 week seminar in which I not only got to experience a new country, but I also had the chance to visit companies, such as Intel, Osprey, and Ikea. I not only spoke with directors and executives, but I also toured the company facilities within their respective countries. International Business Seminars enabled me to experience the out of classroom, out of country experience I craved as an undergraduate student, but to experience this I had to get to the country.

Let Your Dreams Take Flight

After attending the first information session held by IBS at my university, I was intrigued because it highlighted that IBS is an affordable, brief travel seminar abroad that I could earn college credit for and also build my resume. Once I reviewed the various program options, I decided to pursue the Winter Southeast Asia trip. Before the introduction of IBS, I never thought I would travel to Asia. What changed my mind was the ability to travel to Asia with a group of experienced leaders who would be readily available while I was in country, meaning I could ask questions every step of the way if need be. Rather than asking questions for assistance though, I found myself having personal conversations with the group leaders and they became mentors as well because I could connect not only on a professional level, but also a personal level. 

Furthermore, although the seminar is only a twelve day excursion, this option felt suiting for a couple of  reasons:

    • This was my first time going international and I did not know how I would handle it. Being more of a home body, I did not want feel overwhelmed once I got in country and realize I overcommitted.
    • Based on the itinerary, there was a healthy balance between free time, scheduled company visits, and scheduled attraction tours. My afternoons and evenings were almost always free, so all of the sightseeing that I wanted to do outside of the scheduled tours was possible. And I found this to be true while on the trip. The only time I was in the hotel was to sleep, otherwise I was walking the streets of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh city because the hotels were within walking distance of main attractions!

After the first week, I knew a shorter trip was perfect for me. Every day I would wake up around 7-8am and would not go to bed until about 12am. After company tours, the group would change and go out for food and exploration, whether it was visiting the Ben Than Market in Vietnam or Terminal 21 in Bangkok. Every minute was capitalized on while abroad. 

Soaring Through the Stress

Upon finding this opportunity, I expressed excitement, but before leaving America I steadily became nervous because this entire journey was brand new to me. I was unfamiliar with navigating the international flight check-in process, I had never experienced a 20 hour, trans-pacific flight before, and I had no clue what I should be packing or preparing for the trip. 

Being that I had never been to Asia, I did not know what to expect in regards to the cultural immersion I was about to experience either. I had a lot of concerns regarding the language barriers and being a respectful visitor while I was in country. To alieve these concerns, I learned customary greetings to have positive, first impressions on the locals. Then, while I was in country, I made the effort every day while walking the streets to embraced the hustling people, the buzz and honks of the cars, the uneven sidewalks, and more. Thailand and Vietnam were completely different environments than what I was surrounded by growing up, but this juxtaposition proved to be enlightening. The differences in culture forced me to recognize characteristics about myself and how I interact with my environment.

Being able to enjoy the experience did not occur until after I landed in country. Before landing in Thailand and then Vietnam, the mere idea of leaving the country became intimidating. So what did I do? I looked to the resources that I had available to me.

Getting Comfortable in Your Seat of Resources

Throughout the months leading up to the departure for the trip, various members from IBS check-in with you regarding paperwork requirements, providing helpful hints and tips for traveling, and expressing their availability to reach out any time with questions. The constant virtual presence of the IBS team through email and text  in the months leading up to my trip eased my mind because through them, I had all of the tools necessary to be successful during my stay in country. With that, checking emails and keeping an eye out for the communications was important. The individuals sending those emails provide valuable information, such as how to obtain a visa and basic information about the country, and more. And more importantly, this communication continues during the seminar, but its in-person communication instead. 

Additionally, to reduce stress even further for myself, I allowed IBS to handle my travel affairs. By having IBS book my flights, I did not have to worry about monitoring prices, finding reasonable connections, or concerning myself with the stress of coordinating the timing to ensure I arrived in country at the proper time for events on the first day.  I capitalized on the knowledge that the IBS team collectively had regarding what to expect and prepare for once I landed in Southeast Asia.  

However, I did not stop there. To help myself prepare even more, I did some self-research online:

    • Weather,
    • items to bring in case of emergency (hard copies of travel documents, allergy medications, comfort medicine in case of illness, etc),
    • types of internet coverage available in country (wifi-only, sim card, or a plan through your phone service),
    • and of course, places to visit! 

Furthermore, I travelled with a group of 16 peers. Each person within our group contributed to the family dynamic we formed. We had two medics, several wander lusters, a couple of navigators, some right-hand mans who never left anyone behind or alone, and also the go-with-the-flow journeyers.  Since most of us were first-time international travelers, or at least first-time being in SE Asia, it was easy to overcome any discomfort in getting to know each other. We all faced similar struggles and questions while in the country, thus we quickly became comfortable with each other because it enabled us to communicate better in a foreign location. Within this group, I developed friendships that will last a lifetime.  Also, I was able to explore various areas in both Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh without ever being alone. 

Collectively, all this information provided a solid foundation of resources that I could use to mentally preparing for leaving for my trip and while I was in country.

Earning Your International Wings

Despite maintaining communication with the constant check-ins and asking clarifying questions, I still made errors along the way. It is challenging to ask the “right” questions when you hardly know what to even expect. There was a huge learning curve each step of the way. 

Prior to this trip I never had to go through a check-in process. Consequently, I had a moment in the airport in which I got the pleasure of hearing my name being called overhead by the airline because they needed to speak to me. I confusedly walked up to the desk at the gate I had been waiting at for my flight with my passport and boarding pass in hand and the gate officer informed me I did not check-in to the airline. I had managed to bypass this vital step. Fortunately for me they checked me in at the gate right before I boarded the plane. In this moment I learned that for all international flights, you have to check-in with the airlines, which is before security, and in foreign airports you pass through immigration and passport control afterwards. 

Another new experience was meals on a plane. Foolishly, I had selected meals through the airline website check-in because I thought it was a requirement. I later learned that it was only required for dietary restrictions: reading instructions in full is always helpful! I was able to correct this for my returning flights, but I got stuck eating meals on my way to Thailand that contained foods that I was not familiar with because it was food based on the local culture, in this cause Thai cuisine.  In eating local street foods and looking around local markets I later learned what I was served on the plane. 

I learned a lot through the experience of even just getting out of America. Throughout all of it though, I absorbed each mistake and rather than being harsh on myself, I took a lesson from every moment to make the necessary improvements for later. In going on this trip, I knew I was taking on a new journey and stretching myself. Just like a plane ride, you know there may be a change in wind and in turn some turbulence, but eventually with the proper navigation, the plane will exit the weather system and return to a calm, smooth flight. The key is to remain calm and look for other pathways when the route you’re taking is leading you to constant failure.

By: Karlee Cuddy